This year marks my 22nd Hong Kong Sevens tournament. I’ve not missed one since arriving back in 1993, even the year that I had tonsillitis, making the first few pints a bit hard to swallow. Back then England went on to retain the trophy and it was something not to be missed being a true Brit.
The Sevens is the greatest sporting event in Hong Kong, the greatest tournament of its kind in the world, and the biggest 3-day party of all time. However, as I look to the weekend, I can’t feel that I’ve seen it all before, and I’m wondering what’s going to be new this year to spice things up a bit.
The matches themselves have become extremely boring, and not just because England’s finest have lost their place among the champions since 2006, but even the great teams of Fiji, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia, have become machines. Where are the heroes? Where are the individuals? Where are the Serevi’s, the Christian Cullen’s, the bulldogs like Jonah Lomu, the sleek running of William Ryder, and of course the great, determined tries of Ben Gollings? Is it all to do with the professionalization of the sport?
Let’s face it, as a true Gweilo Hong Konger it’s all about the boys of Hong Kong now. The boys we watched as mini and youth rugby players breaking into the 1st team squad. We feel connected.
So, what else happens on the pitch these days? Not a lot. Anything and everything that used to be lobbed on to the pitch, especially during the marching band when the goal was to get the squidgy balls into the tuba. Watching the mini players break ranks to pick up all the flying squidgies. It’s all gone now. No more streakers, an occasional pitch invader, and a bunch of has-been pseudo rockers trying to impress the latest generation of spectator.
I’m sorry, but none of this cuts it anymore. Even the corporate boxes have been hit with a new executive box pass via mobile that stops the overflow revelry at 4pm on the Sunday. You won’t see the corporate runners at the bottom of the East and West stand escalators with hundreds of passes around their necks. It’s a real shame … or is it?
We’ve been left with one jewel in the crown – the South Stand, and yes, the costumes. Without the South Stand and the after-partying, it wouldn’t be the greatest 3-day party of all time, let alone the rugby 7s tournament of the year. Sometimes I think the powers-that-be forget all this. This is what we old folk do sitting in the upper tier stands – avidly watching the South Stand madness. I’m sure we’re all looking out for our kids who managed to sneak in or just reached the 18-year-old age limit to get in, but hey, it certainly beats watching the rugby these days.
As a recently made single guy, the South Stand seems incredibly tempting this year, and when your kids’ friends say ‘Yeah, come and join us’, it’s a hard offer to refuse. (But one has to show a bit of elderly decorum.)
So it’s gotta be the streak across the pitch then, to be carted off to the underground police room, and then a show in court on Monday morning.
Come on Hong Kong.
(And then there’s the tickets. Don’t get me started. That’s for another post.)